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Hey everyone! Tuesday, we talked about taking care of your body and the planet by being conscious of what you eat and where it comes from. If you missed that article, you can read it here!
Now, with that information in mind, today will be focused on the struggles of cooking for one person.
If you are like me and live alone, grocery shopping often feels like a waste of time. Why go to the store when I’m only feeding myself? A drive-thru would only cost about $5 to $7. Honestly, though, the drive-thru tabs add up! Both financially, and physically.
Restaurants, and more specifically, fast-food restaurants, are often high in salt, sugar and processed chemicals. Some of these chemicals are put in the food simply to make them last longer and taste better—kind of gross if you think about needing to add a chemical to something in order for it to taste good. Choosing these items regularly, will inevitably take a toll on your health.
I asked fellow Bulletin writer, Larry Hoffman of Sarasota Bites, how to make cooking for one person less intimidating. He also broke down his weekly meals for me—including tips for saving money, while still trying new restaurants!
How to cook for one person on a budget:
Hoffman and his website, dineSarasota.com, have been bringing the Sarasota, Florida, area restaurant, food and dining information online for almost 20 years. He even puts out an annual Sarasota dining book each year with information on over 200 of the best restaurants in the area. It is safe to say, Hoffman knows his food.
“I always make a list of the basics I need [when grocery shopping] and then toss in the impulse items that look too good to pass up,” he said. “I do try to figure out in advance what I’ll be having for lunch and dinner. That way I am not running to the market up the street which is twice as expensive as my local grocery store.”
Choosing discount grocery stores, or even shopping in bulk at places like Costco and Sam’s Club, is a great way to purchase basic items for less. Think salt, pepper, flour, eggs, butter, the basics! These items typically taste the same across the board; might as well buy them for cheap!
Hoffman does not regularly “meal prep,” per se, but he noted that if he makes tuna, chicken or egg salad, he always buys enough to have it two or three times that week, he said. Making food items that can be taken for lunch, or reheated for dinner will inevitably save you some money.
*PRO TIP* While a vacuum sealer is not in everyone’s budget, the one-time purchase can save you money in the long-run. Hoffman often buys meat like chicken and salmon in bulk. He portions it out, seals it up and freezes the excess. That way, all he has to do it take out a package, defrost and cook, he said.
Lastly, I asked Hoffman how to maintain a budget while still trying new restaurants. His answer was simple, but enlightening at the same time—Go for lunch!
Trying a new restaurant during the daytime hours is usually easier on the wallet than the dinner menu, Hoffman said. Depending on the restaurant, portion sizes may provide you with a meal or appetizer for dinner that night as well!
How to actually cook for one person:
Social media has made a lasting impact on our lives—playing a role in our fashion, brands we test out and even our meals! Lots of people are now cooking at home due to inspiration from blogs, Pinterest links, TikTok videos and Instagram Reels.
The downside, though, having way too much leftover.
Hoffman suggests using basic math to slim down a recipe before beginning the cooking process.
“If a recipe calls for a cup or something and the serving size is four, I’ll reduce the amount to ¼ of a cup,” he said. “Dry measures work the same way. I use grams instead of ounces; it makes the division easier.”
If you struggle with math, don’t worry. Use this link that already has a premade chart with tips and exact numbers to help you reduce a recipe down to a reasonable proportion for meals.
Let’s test it out:
Hoffman does a series called “Make it at Home” where he asks a restaurant for a recipe, makes the dish in his own kitchen, then compares his version to the restaurant version. The goal is to test just how easy it is to prepare your favorite restaurant dish, in your own kitchen.
One recipe that Hoffman has tested in his own kitchen, is the 1905 Salad from The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City.
"It seems like every third or fourth Sarasota restaurant has a version of this delicious, easy to make salad on their menu," he said.
Hoffman has adapted the original version of the recipe and sent me "Larry's version," where the portion-size feeds one person! Today, I made the salad for lunch and it was fantastic! It only took me about 10 minutes in total, and that was my first-time walking through the recipe. Hoffman claims it can also be made for a light dinner!
Try it yourself!
¼ head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 tomato, medium, cut into eight pieces
10-12 Spanish olives, small, pitted
Romano or parmesan cheese, freshly grated
¼ cup Swiss cheese, julienned
¼ cup ham of turkey, julienned
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
*PRO TIP* I’ll save you the embarrassment of a google search...
Julienned: a portion of food cut into short, thin strips
You’ll likely have leftover lettuce. Wrap leftovers in a dry paper towel and store it in the “crisp” refrigerator drawer (up to 7-10 days), revive wilting lettuce with a quick ice bath!
In a large bowl, mix all the salad ingredients except for the Romano or parmesan cheese. In a small bowl, add the dressing ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to the dressing to taste. Pour dressing over salad and toss well. Add the grated cheese and toss again. Serve on an ice-cold salad plate. Enjoy!
*PRO TIP* To enjoy a solo meal, Hoffman suggests always eating dinner at the table rather than sitting on the couch in front of the television.
“It just makes the experience feel more like a meal that way,” he said. “There will always be time after dinner to catch up on my binge-watching”